Title: Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Fandom: X-Men Movie!verse.
Author: andromeda3116/cupid-painted-blind
Rating: T, for some cursing.
Characters/Pairings: Rogue, mild Rogue/Gambit because seriously, guys, I'm predictable. I also maybe ship Rogue/Pyro and you might can tell.
Summary: A prelude to a disaster. Rogue.
A/N: Wolverine: Origins isn't canon, okay? It just friggin' isn't. Also, the title song is by Radiohead, and it is so good it's ridiculous. For some reason, it reminds me of Rogue. Also-also, I wish I could lay claim to the "treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide" line, but that's Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

just as you take my hand, just as you write my number down
just as the drinks arrive, just as they play your favorite song

She has a thousand reasons for being here, and none of them are any good. She told the X-Men that she was going home for a while, to talk to her parents, talk to David's parents, talk to David if he's awake (he isn't), talk to her friends, talk to her grandparents, talk to the graveyard, talk to the city, talk to her old coworkers, talk to her old schoolmates, talk. She even took Logan's motorcycle, without telling him, but she thinks he must know, or he would have tracked her down and pulled it from her cold, dead hands.

Logan always knows. He's the only one who does.

He asked her how long she'd be, and she replied that she really wasn't sure, maybe a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks.

Take your time, he'd said, and don't get into too much trouble. But she's just starting to think that maybe trouble is worth it. She's spent her whole life sheltered and hidden, even before her mutation manifested - she was always the good girl, that's what David liked so much about her, she was so good, a sweet Southern Belle. She even won a costume contest one Halloween when she dressed up like Scarlet O'Hara; she's so Mississippi that it hurts, but Mississippi doesn't have anything left for her.

Still, she breaks into her parents' house one night and steals the dress, because, after all, green does look good on her, and she did a damn good job making it.

Best part is, the opera gloves go with it.

The thing about the Cure is that, even though she's taken it, she's still a mutant. Officially, she's All Human now, but she's slow to realize what she thinks Storm knew all along: the Cure won't change who she is, and it's not worth it. She and Bobby are still broken-up, she no longer fits in at the Insitute, and already, reports are coming in from all over about how the Cure doesn't last, how it fails, how Erik Lensherr is a threat again.

She ought to care, but then, she never stopped wearing the gloves.

She always meant to, but it's habit, and she's gotten used to hiding behind them, and the scarves, and the long sleeves, and even the long hair. Halfway between Meridian and Gulfport, she stops in at some hairstylist's place and tells her to cut it off. "Whatever you think'll look good," she says, knowing how much it must annoy the woman, and for once in her life, not giving a damn. It's oddly freeing.

"With your... unique hair," the stylist starts uncertainly, touching her bangs, "we shouldn't go too short. Maybe chin-length, how does that sound?"

"Go for it, sugar," she replies, and grins, feeling more like the teenager who barely knew mutants existed than she has in years. Unbidden, she thinks of Alaska, and wonders how hard Logan will kill her if she takes his bike all the way there. Pretty hard, she decides, and it's probably not worth it.

The thought of going back to the Insititute is repulsive to her, though, so she decides to take a detour on the way back, and if that detour takes her all the way up the west coast of North America, then, well, she can claim that she got a little lost.

"Looks great," she tells the stylist, running her fingers through her hair and paying for the cut. "Tell me, where should a girl go if she wants to get away for a while?" she asks, although she already knows the answer: Biloxi, or if she's feeling a little more frisky, New Orleans. Not much else do to do for fun around these parts, unless your idea of "fun" involves ATVs or, if you go north a ways, country music.

She's desperate to get out of Mississippi, but New Orleans isn't exactly a place that a girl of barely twenty should be going alone, especially without her protective covering of mutant.

"Biloxi's nice if you like casinos," the stylist says. "And, well, there's always the French Quarter."

as your bad mood disappears, no longer wound up like a spring
before you've had too much, come back and focus again

God, she thinks, and David thinks, in one of the nameless, indistinguishable bars on Bourbon Street, this is such a bad idea.

Go back to the Insititute, David says, or go back home. You're a good girl, Marie. This isn't you.

And he's right; it isn't. It's just who she wants to be. She's a lightweight, but she's also got a lot of experience in keeping her head on straight, so it looks like she's stone-cold sober even when she feels dangerously close to passing out or throwing up.

There's a cute guy at the bar who's eyeing her up, some frat boy type, probably goes to LSU or Tulane (her money's on Tulane; he looks like the sort), and he's exactly her type: all-American pretty boy with a loving family and a stable home life who's biggest problem is passing Calculus. Probably a jerk underneath the nice guy sheen, but in such a way that it's not really offensive, a jerk in such a cliched College Kid way that it's impossible to get involved with him without knowing damn well what she's getting into.

Marie would go for it. She'd smile and blush and giggle and sit a little too close for a little too long and she might even call him Bobby by accident.

Rogue could not give less of a shit about him, and if she's being totally honest, Marie doesn't much care about him either. He just seems so boring, boring like David and boring like Bobby, boring and safe. Marie wants that; Rogue wants anything but.

Marie wants to go back to the Insititute and back to Bobby and back to safe, Rogue wants to roar around North America and spend all of her money and ride Logan's bike until it falls apart under her.

"And what," Tulane Frat Boy says, "is a pretty thing like you doing in a place like this?"

"I," she replies, determined not to slur in spite of the fact that she's so drunk she's not entirely sure she can remember her own name, "am fucking up."

And it comes out triumphant.

the walls abandon shape, they've got a cheshire cat grin
all blurring into one, this place is on a mission

She doesn't even entertain the thought of taking Tulane Frat Boy back to her hotel; halfway through his offer to buy her a drink, she waves him off and tells him to go after some sorority chick, or maybe one of those lonely artistic types who pine after boys like him. "Because," she tells him matter-of-factly, "I am not going to sleep with you."

He calls her a bitch, and she shrugs. Bobby asks her what happened to the Marie he fell in love with. Marie asks her why she's turning down scot-free sex when the Cure is going to wear off sooner or later. Logan asks her for another drink. Pyro asks her to burn Tulane Frat Boy to ash. Magneto asks her when she's going to realize that this isn't getting her anywhere.

Rogue makes the executive decision to go back to the hotel before she passes out. When she stands up, the world tilts and it takes her a second to regain her footing, but she does so with a cheeky grin, and tosses a fifty over to the bartender. "That cover it?" she asks, already pulling out another fifty in case it's not, since she's utterly lost track of how much she's had and how expensive it was.

"That's plenty, sweetheart," the bartender says, reaching over hastily and pushing her money back into her wallet. "You shouldn't show off that much cash, darling. This isn't Greenville, it's not safe."

She smirks, and waggles her fingers like they'll still kill anyone who touches them. "Let 'em come for me," she says. "I wanna see 'em try."

It's self-destruction.

She wishes desperately that she hadn't gotten the cure.

before the night owl, before the animal noises
closed-circuit cameras, before you're comatose

It really is inevitable, with her flippant ignorance of the bartender's warning and the unabashed way she showed off a wad of cash too big for any thief to deny. The man who brushes against her doesn't even really have to try, but she's had so much experience in keeping her head together and her bubble intact that she grabs his hand before it's even out of her pocket.

"I may be drunker than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide," she slurs, her accent thick enough to make herself wince, "but you could at least try to hide the fact that you're tryin'a steal my wallet."

The man looks at her, and his face splits into a grin. "Y'know," he says cheerfully, like he hasn't been caught, "I like you. You from Jackson?"

"Westchester, New York," she replies, and it sounds like sarcasm. "You gonna give me back my wallet or am I gonna have to fight you for it?"

"Sweetheart, I don't think you could take me," he challenges condescendingly, and she rears back to give him a nasty left hook, but someone catches her arm and sidles up behind her.

"There you are, chere," a voice says, and she smells cigarettes and bourbon, "I was gettin' worried. You're slummin', aren't you, Julian? Here I thought thievin' was beneath you."

Julian's whole face shifts from amused indifference to ugly rage. "I thought I told you to stay the hell away from New Orleans," he snarls, hand still clutching her wallet. Logan's in her ear, and he tells her that she's caught between an old feud, and, more importantly, two men who are both trying to take something from her.

She swallows hard and wills herself to sober up, taking in two lungfuls of chilly October air laced with smoke and strong drink, before shrugging the unnamed man away from her, slamming her foot into Julian's instep, and elbowing him hard in the gut. Her wallet falls out of his hand, and she catches it before it even hits the pavement.

"I'll just be going," she says primly, slipping out from between the two men. "You two boys have fun, y'hear?"

As she leaves, she hears one of them laugh out loud.

He catches up to her as she's trying to remember where her hotel is, all of her bravado (and sobriety) fading right back into the haze of the alcohol, too strong and too recent to really fade.

"Not that I'm complaining," the man says, "but you just made yourself an enemy of some folk you really don't wanna be on the bad side of."

"What'll he do, kill me?" she asks coldly, and then laughs. "Better men than him have tried."

"I'm sure y'can take care of yourself, chere, but still might be best if you leave the Big Easy real soon."

She turns to him, blinking hard and trying to sober herself up again, wishing once again that she hadn't taken the Cure, or at least hadn't had so much to drink. If she still had her power, she could knock this man and his advice right out where he stands, leave him on the road for someone else to find and deal with. If she still had her power, she could figure out why he thinks she should leave New Orleans. If she still had her power, she wouldn't feel the creeping fear that maybe he's going to try something, or maybe Julian was going to try something, or maybe neither of them will do anything but some other lowlife will.

But then, if she still had her power, she'd be back at the Institute, cuddling with Bobby and ignoring her seething discontent. She'd still be all Marie, who's codename doesn't fit her, too sweet to really take seriously.

"Who are you?" she asks, turning to him. He raises an eyebrow. "And more to the point, why do you care?"

"Don't like to see pretty girls get hurt, is all," he replies, grinning.

"Doesn't tell me who you are, Swamp Rat," she snaps. "Or why you care."

His grin grows a little wider. "Remy LeBeau, at y'service," he says, sweeping into an exaggerated bow. It's when he rises that she catches his eyes: red on black.


For a split second, she thinks, hysterically, that he's working with Magneto and he's going to kidnap her and drag her back to New York where Magneto can try that thing with the turning everyone into mutants again and no one will know that she's in danger because they all think she's in Meridian with her parents and maybe Magneto will actually kill her this time or - worse - maybe he won't and she'll be tortured all over again with his nightmares of the Holocaust - and she catches herself. He notices the shift in the air, and his grin suddenly looks bitter.

"Anyway," he says shortly, "S'not safe for pretty girls to be alone in a place like this, even if y' can beat up Julian Boudreaux." He tips his nonexistent hat to her, turns sharply, and begins to walk away.

"What about mutants?" she asks, and he stiffens. "It any safer for mutants here?"

"Why?" he counters, without turning. "You know any?"

She blinks. "No."

before you run away from me, before you're lost between the notes
the beat goes round and round, the beat goes round and round

She ignores his warning, half out of apathy and half out of the vicious hope that maybe he'll be right about it not being safe. She's aching for a fight, for a real, violent, life-threatening fight that makes her feel less out of her depth and might make her forget that she's All Human now, all Marie. More than that, she's aching to get into a real fight where her fist connects with someone's face and starts draining their life right out of them.

And more than that, she's aching to forget who she is and why she took the Cure.

Rogue wouldn't care, she thinks. If she was who she wants to be, she wouldn't be waiting for Julian's faceless allies to find her, she'd be hunting them down herself. But then, Rogue wouldn't have taken the Cure. Rogue would have found a way to control her power on her own terms. Rogue probably would never have gotten with Bobby, either.

Like everything else, that was All Marie.

She goes back to the same bar, sits back in the same place, orders the same drink. The bartender looks at her. "You're a little too young to be drinking your sorrows like this, sweetheart," he says, and she shrugs.

"Got a lifetime of sorrows, and not all of them are mine," she replies, thinking about Erik Lensherr's mother and what she looked like being dragged into a concentration camp. If the bartender thinks it's strange, he doesn't comment, and when she takes the first sip of her whiskey, she can tell it's been watered down. Marie thinks it's awfully nice of him to look out for her.

Rogue gets pissed.

"I don't recall Jack Daniel's comin' with so much water in the glass," she drawls, leaning over the counter and pouring the glass out into the bartender's sink. "Now, this time, I'd like a real glass of whiskey, if that ain't a problem for you."

"You are just dyin' to get in trouble, aren't you, chere?" that voice says, and she twitches. Remy LeBeau is lounging on the stool next to her, watching her with those creepy eyes. He makes a hand motion to the bartender. "Her drink's on me," he says, and she laughs.

"Oh, sugar, no. My drink's on me, thank you very much. And to answer your question," she adds, giving him a megawatt smile, "I am indeed just dyin' to get in trouble. Why'd you think I came here to begin with?"

"Looks to me like you came to get drunk," he says coolly. "And I think you're in over y'head."

For once in her life, all of the voices in her head are in complete agreement: he is absolutely right and she is absolutely in over her head. Now she's got to choose whether she's Marie or Rogue, because Marie would voice this agreement, take Logan's keys, and go right back to the Institute. Rogue, on the other hand, thinks that the fun is just getting started.

This is a bad idea, Bobby tells her, but she's so sick of being the sort of person who listens to Bobby Drake.

"You're right," she tells Remy LeBeau firmly, and he blinks, apparently having fully expected her to disagree. "And thank you for the concern. It does my heart good to know that there are strangers in the world who think about my welfare." He watches her suspiciously, waiting for the other shoe to drop. She gives it to him. "But I can take care of myself, thanks, and I'm old enough to decide what I drink, where I drink it, and who I drink it with."

There's a moment of silence as she takes her non-watered-down whiskey and drains it in one draught. "If you don't mind my askin'," he says, in the tone of one who doesn't care whether or not she does mind, "why?"

She stares hard into the empty glass, and she's got a hundred thousand different answers to give him, but only one that matters. Both Marie and Rogue tell her not to say anything, but with the whiskey on her tongue and that Scarlet O'Hara dress stuffed into her bag with all its memories sewn up in its folds hanging heavy in her mind, she gives him the truth: "Because I'm not a mutant anymore," she says bluntly, and leaves without another word.

i never really got there, i just pretended that i had
what's the point of instruments? words are sawed-off shotguns

Somehow, he's waiting for her at her hotel. She stares at him for the longest moment, trying to wrap her mind around the fact that he somehow beat her to her own goddamn hotel - the hotel that she never told him about and is quite sure he didn't follow her to - and then trying to figure out why he could still possibly give a damn about her. It should be obvious that she's not going to leave just because he's warned her to, and their shared mutanthood shouldn't be enough to bring him all the way out here.

"Don't you have better things to do?" she asks, and he leans against the wall, smoking a cigarette in the way she's always wished she could pull off, all nonchalant and carefully careless.

"Prob'ly," he replies evenly. "You take the Cure willingly, or did they shoot y' with those guns they got?"

She sighs, looks away. "Willingly," she replies grudgingly, "but it was stupid."

"Why'd you do it?"

"Why d'you care?" she counters, lightning-fast. "You don't even know my name."

He smirks in that same bitter way, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out her wallet with a flourish and a wink, opening it up while she's still too shocked to do anything and reads off her name from her driver's license. "Anna Marie D'Ancanto. From Meridian, Mississippi. Five-foot-six and one-hundred-and-ten pounds." He pauses, and looks at her critically. "My tante would say you need some more meat on those bones, Miss Anna."

"It's Marie," she snaps, and it's a lie, "how did you get that?"

"Did Julian make you think all thieves in the Crescent City were easy to spot? Here's a bit o' information for y', Miss Anna. Julian's an Assassin, not a thief."

She takes a deep breath, ignores the voices in her head telling her that they told her so, and shakes her head. "When you came up behind me at the bar," she says, laughing breathlessly, "when I poured the whiskey out." He tips his head to her and tosses the spent cigarette to the ground. "Fine, you've made your point. Can I have my wallet back?"

He whistles as he rifles through it unconcernedly, apparently absorbed in inspecting her credit cards and cash. When she lunges forward to take it back from him, he deflects her deftly and twists around so that she's against the wall and he's got her almost pinned, her wallet suddenly absent from his hands. "So," he starts, and she can't tell if he's amused or deadly serious, "why'd you take the Cure?"

The easy answer is on her lips - I did it for a boy - but that's only because the truth is taking longer to ferret out. She's spent so much time hating herself for giving it up that she's almost forgotten how much of a curse it really was. A strange, fierce emotion wells up in her, and she shakes her head. "I thought it was a curse," she answers, because it's true even if it's not really an explanation.

It was a curse, she thinks viciously, but it was my curse. And now it's gone, and now she's normal, and now she's not Rogue but rather Marie, and now there's this strange man with stranger eyes who won't stop calling her Anna like he thinks he has the right, and now Magneto won't be after her because Magneto has nothing to gain from catching her, and now she's more alone than she's ever been before except for when she was hitchhiking through Canada, and now this one is all her own fault.

There's a weird sort of pride in that, though, like the triumph in her voice and in her blood when she declared that she was fucking up.

"You were wrong," Remy LeBeau says, like he's waiting for her to challenge him, and backs off ever-so-slightly. She tilts her head up.

"No," she replies. "It was a curse, and it will be again when it comes back."

He laughs a little, just a little, and there's that same bitterness in his smile. "I don't get you," he says bluntly, and she shrugs.

"That makes two of us."

come on and let it out, come on and let it out
come on and let it out, come on and let it out

She isn't going to invite him up to her room. She knows he's waiting for her to, and several of the people in her head are whispering that she should do it because when will she ever be able to do anything like this again? Once the Cure wears off, she'll be back to being untouchable, and she'll regret not having sex with that handsome stranger a lot more than she would regret having sex with that handsome stranger.

Bobby thinks she shouldn't, and that's almost enough to make her do it, but it occurs to her somewhat belatedly that deliberately going against what Bobby wants just because it's what Bobby wants is more than a little immature. Like a teenager who only wears exaggerated black eyeliner and red lipstick because it's what her parents will hate, not because it's what she really likes.

"I don't know where you think this is going, Cajun," she tells him, and he finishes her sentence for her -

"But you're not go'n sleep with me," he says, smirking amusedly. "I heard you givin' that speech to the frat boy last night. What is your problem with casual sex?"

"Just not my thing," she replies, and wishes she knew whether or not it's a lie.

"Ah," he replies airily. "You a relationship kinda girl, aren't you?"

"I'm not an anything kinda girl," she counters, a little more forcefully than she intends. "I just don't wanna have sex with you," she lies, and wonders if it's as obvious to him as it is to her that she's on uneven footing here.

"Sure you don't," he says lightly, and she narrows her eyes, now more determined than ever to prove him wrong. Something about him rubs her the wrong way at the same time that it rubs her in all the right ways.

"You do realize that you just shot whatever slim chance you did have with that arrogant tone, don't you, Monsieur LeBeau?" she retorts, cocking her hip and glowering at him. He laughs out loud, which is, admittedly, not the reaction she was hoping for.

"What if I begged?" he asks, smirking, and then dramatically throws a hand over his heart and affects a pleading stance. "Please, oh, please, Miss Anna, what could I possibly do to convince you to allow me to come up to your room?"

She snorts and shuts the door in his face. His laughter follows her through the lobby and lingers long after he's gone.

before you run away from me, before you're lost between the notes
just as you take the mic, just as you dance, dance, dance

She's spent the last two days waiting for Julian's men to find her; she's surprised when they don't.

Instead, a beautiful woman takes the seat opposite her while she's working on her third coffee at the Cafe du Monde, and smiles. She looks at the woman for a long moment, trying to figure out why she looks so damn familiar, and then she speaks.

"Hello, Marie," she says, reaching forward, touching her hair. "I like the shorter look, it really works with your face."

"Mystique," she hisses, recoiling violently, but the woman merely tilts her head.

"Not yet," Mystique replies, distastefully looking at her own skin. "The Cure hasn't worn off yet. I'm no more Mystique than you are Rogue."

"It will," she says, holding it like a talisman. "The Cure will wear off, and then - "

"And then what?" Raven Darkholme asks, tilting her head, a fire in her eyes. "I go back to Erik and you go back to the X-Men? I have a better idea."

Don't listen to her, Logan and David and Bobby and even Magneto all say. Pyro, on the other hand, thinks that Raven might be on to something, and John always was one of her better friends. "Okay," she says uncertainly, both intimidated and intrigued by that fire. "What idea is that?"

Raven smiles. "You're not obligated to do anything," she says calmly, "just listen. If you want to go back to the X-Men, then that's fine. I won't stop you, and if you want me to, I'll deny that we ever had this meeting. But I think there's more to you than what you are right now. I think you have so much potential that you just aren't reaching yet." She pauses, gauging her reaction, and Rogue tries to be opaque. "And I think you've realized this, too. You're so special, Marie," she says, just shy of lovingly. "I've had my eye on you for a long time. You're not like them," she explains contemptuously, and doesn't elaborate on who they are. "You're powerful, in an entirely different way, and I think if you just took that power..."

"You wanna use me," she infers, unimpressed. Raven's expression flickers. "You've got a plan to get back at Magneto, and you think I'll help you do it."

"I do," Raven replies simply. "You and I both have vendettas to settle with Erik. All I'm saying is that we can help each other out."

"You're wrong," she counters, shrugging. "I made my peace with it."

"Oh?" Raven says. "No nightmares? I know what Erik went through, what he forced on you. Tell me, have you been able to forget the smell of burning flesh?" Against her will, she flinches; the answer is a resounding no. "That's what I thought. I'm not lying to you, Marie. In fact," she adds seriously, "I'll make you a promise, right now: I will never lie to you. You can trust me."

No, you can't, Logan yells, and if he had arms, he'd be shaking her around the shoulders. But she just doesn't know. She's not an X-Man anymore, not really, not when everyone walks on eggshells around her and treats her with disdain and pity for taking the Cure, but she's not Marie anymore, either, even though she's got that damn dress still shoved in her bag, getting wrinkled up beyond recognition. Right now, she's really gone rogue, a wayward mutant without a cause to fight for or a power to trust in.

She wonders, idly, if Mystique had been waiting for her to leave the Institute, waiting for the right time to strike.

"So, what's your plan?" she asks, and tries to make it sound flippant. "Gang up on Magneto, use his own powers against him? Reform the Brotherhood and start playin' pranks on other mutants to sully his good name? Pool our money and hire an assassin?"

(As she says it, it occurs to her that Remy LeBeau still has her damn wallet, and she curses violently in her mind.)

"Well," Raven replies, a small smile playing at her lips, "first, we dispatch the lowlifes who've been following you around the city - " they both roll their eyes at this " - and then you come with me to my hotel. I have a nice room, and a few of your old friends have already agreed to work with me. They, too, were forced to take the Cure."

"I wasn't forced," she says coldly, and Raven blinks.

"I know. But it amounts to the same thing. You took the Cure, and now you're desperate for your power to return. We can empathize with that."

"Who's we?" she asks.

jigsaw falling into place, there is nothing to explain
regard each other as you pass, she looks back and you look back

"Well, well, well," John says, eyeing her over as she stands, stock-still, in Raven's penthouse suite. "Look who's decided to rejoin the mutants. What happened, did Bobby dump you? Are you looking for revenge?"

"I did the dumping, thanks," she snaps, wondering why she ever thought John could have been her friend, and then wondering why the disgust in his voice hurts so much. It's just that she, John, and Bobby used to be a posse, and then it was just her and Bobby, and now it's just her. She'd be lying if she said that she hadn't entertained the thought of being John's friend again, even though she's known from the start that this is what he'd say.

"Stop being a prick, Allerdyce," someone else says, someone she's never seen before. He holds out a hand to her. "Dominic," he says cheerfully. "Or Avalanche."

"Let me guess, you make the Earth move?" she asks, and then winces, knowing what's about to come.

"Only if you ask me to," he quips, and then rolls his eyes. "Yeah, that was too easy. So," he continues, drawing out the word until it trails off, clearly looking for something else to say. She breezes past him, patting him on the shoulder.

"Don't hurt yourself, sugar. It looks like all that thinkin's gonna set your hair on fire."

John snorts. "When did you grow a spine?" he asks snottily, and since she can't come up with a decent response that doesn't involve "no you", she just glares at him. "Razor-sharp wit failing you?" he teases, and it would be friendly if it wasn't for the violence in his eyes. "Don't hurt yourself, sugar."

She runs a hand through her hair, bitterly thinking that this was a terrible idea, and worse, she knew it was a terrible idea. The moment Mystique (Raven) sat down opposite her, she knew she was making a huge mistake.

But Mystique is offering something she hasn't been able to find since taking the Cure: a place to belong. Even if John is here and even if he isn't willing to forgive her for hating who she is and even if it means that the X-Men will hate her - it's not much, but it's something.

Mystique walks into the room behind her and sidles right through the small knot of people, turning around and putting her hands on her hips. "I've brought a new member to meet all of you," she says, smiling benevolently, and motions for Rogue to join her in the front, but she hesitates. Right now is her last chance to change her mind. Right now, she could still go back to the Institute, just take Logan's bike right back up I-59 or maybe west on I-10 and take the long way around; she could go back, and they would welcome her with open arms and closed smiles.

But she won't. Because, at the end of the day, she chose to become human, and they'll never be able to get over it.

If everything else fails, though, she figures she can still go back to Meridian, throw herself on the mercy of her parents, and pretend to be someone who doesn't know there is an X-gene.

The image swims in her head: going to her parents, asking for help. Being allowed to sleep in the same bed she grew up in. Taking the Cure again every time it fails. Going to University. Meeting an all-American pretty boy and taking him home to meet her family. Lying to him about where she spent five years of her life. Marrying him. Having ten fat babies and hoping that none of them turn out like her. Growing old in Meridian. Dying in Meridian. Being buried in Meridian.

It makes her want to scream.

This is, she'll say later, why she steps forward and walks to Mystique: the only alternatives that she can see make her want to die. And after all, if it's a mistake, at least it's hers.

not just once, not just twice
wish away the nightmare, wish away the nightmare

She takes her seat in the same bar she's been in for the past two nights, and the bartender watches her warily. She waves a hand. "No drink this time," she tells him, and then hesitates.

Mystique's voice ringing in her ear: there's someone else we want to recruit, and we need to get to him before the X-Men do.

She volunteered for this, because she's the only one she can trust with this. "And besides," she'd said, marveling at how careless it came out, "I still have to get my wallet back from him."

For once, she spots him before he spots her, lounging in a booth with a group of men, all talking in low voices. It practically screams "secret meeting," and she takes an extra moment to look at the people with him, to see if they're familiar, but they're not. She makes a point of leaning against the bar, feeling uncomfortably exposed without her gloves ("What's the worst that can happen?" Mystique had asked, "You'll absorb him? That would just make things that much easier for you.") and crossing her legs in what she hopes is a nonchalant pose.

She watches him, waits for him to look over and see her. It doesn't take long; he seems bored with the clandestine meeting, and when he spots her, he raises a hand and salutes to her lazily.

Outwardly, she's smirking. Inside, she's terrified. She asks Logan for help, but Logan isn't talking to her, so she tries Bobby, but he tells her the same thing he's been telling her since she left New York (go back home), and then, in desperation, she tries Magneto.

Relax, Erik Lensherr tells her, voice soft in her ear. He'll come to you. They always do.

What she doesn't ask him, and what he doesn't tell her, is whether he's referring to her specifically or to recruitment in general. This whole set-up reeks of Magneto, even as Mystique is plotting against him: spot the target, talk to the target. Tell the target what he or she wants to hear. Make it irresistable. Give them a little space, let them decide to come to you on their own. It's how he got Pyro, and it's how he's gotten her.

Officially, she's working for Mystique, but they all know that's not really true. It always comes back to Magneto, in the end.

Remy LeBeau comes up to the bar to order another round, and just-so-happens to choose the space right by her to do the ordering. She glances sideways at him, but it's not him that she sees.

It's John, fingers tapping in irritation, on the other side of the bar, watching. Waiting for her to screw up. Waiting for her to do exactly what she was going to do. Her jaw tightens and her blood pressure rises at the same time that dismay hits her with the force of a brick.

They don't trust her. Marie is appalled, Rogue rallies her strength.

Of course they don't trust her. To them, she's an X-Man, and to the X-Men, she's a traitor, and to herself -

"I have a proposition for you," she tells Remy firmly, surprising herself with her own voice. He tilts his head and raises an eyebrow.

"Oh?" he replies lightly, and doesn't have to say what he's thinking: you re-thinking your decision last night?


She opens her mouth to reply, eyes locked on John, fidgeting like he always fidgets, twirling that zippo in his hand like she's seen him do ten thousand times, and nostalgia rises in the back of her throat. She swallows it down hard. "Yes," she says, a little thickly. If he notices, he doesn't comment. "Got an old friend of mine who's causing a little too much havok. Could use some help making him leave all the good boys and girls alone."

"And the bad boys and girls?" he drawls, fingers tapping lightly on his glass. He fidgets. She doesn't know why, but this simple fact makes her recoil desperately inside.

"Most of us can take care of ourselves," she replies, smirking around the strange, powerful emotion that's welling up inside of her. She thinks it might be shame.

"What is it you really wanna say?" he challenges, looking at her like he knows what she's feeling, and there's a single breath where she almost tells him what she planned to say - something like, just about every group of mutants you can think of wants you to join them and here they are and here's what they do now you can make your own decision about where to go because god knows that's more than I ever got - but then John catches her eye, and all her thoughts and plans fly out of her head.

John always was one of her better friends.

"Well, to tell the truth," she says, laughing lightly and wondering if it sounds as bitter as his did the other night, "I do have an ulterior motive." She leans in and gets right up to his ear, so close she can see the hairs on the back of his neck, and whispers, "You still have my wallet."

He laughs darkly, and they both know she's lying through her teeth. He lets it go, though, and she doesn't know if she loves him or hates him for it. "I can help you," he says finally, shrugging carelessly, and then bows in that same trying-to-be-gallant way that he bowed when he introduced himself, indicating for her to lead the way.

Yeah, she thinks, fingering Logan's keys in her pocket as she saunters away from the bar for the last time. It's definitely shame.

you've got a light, you can feel it on your back
a light, you can feel it on your back

jigsaw falling into place